In the final installment of 2009 season diaries from the Penske Racing IndyCar Series drivers, Helio Castroneves talks about a challenging and rewarding season both personally and professionally behind the wheel of the No. 3 Team Penske Dallara/Honda.
By Helio Castroneves
What a year for Team Penske. We had our ups and downs, but all in all I think it was a great season.
Personally, the year started out under unusual circumstances. It was certainly a difficult time for me and my family, and when you add to that the fact that I was not able to compete in St. Petersburg (I missed my first race in 10 years with Team Penske) it really made things tough.
I'm so thankful everything turned out the way it did, and that I was able to come back and drive the No. 3 Team Penske car for the rest of the season.
Returning to the cockpit at Long Beach will be one of my most memorable racing moments. It felt so good to be back in the car after such a long off-season. My team was incredibly supportive of me, which was fantastic, and the fan support I got was just overwhelming and helped me get through the entire experience.
As far as the season goes, I think we had a lot of success. I was able to capture my third Indianapolis 500 victory, which was Penske Racing's record 15th win at the Brickyard. The entire month was like a dream -- we won the pole and the Pit Stop Competition leading into Memorial Day Weekend and capped it all off with a win - truly an amazing performance by everyone at Team Penske.
It's amazing to me to think that next year I could earn my fourth win at the Indy 500 - that would be an incredible achievement for me, and clearly one of my main goals for 2010.
After May, the rest of the season was decent. We earned a win at Texas Motor Speedway, which marked my third at the track, and were able to earn seven top-five and 10 top-10 finishes.
I'm obviously disappointed I wasn't fighting for the championship in Homestead; that's certainly what a driver is always trying to accomplish. But at least my teammate, Ryan Briscoe, was there at the end with a shot to bring Team Penske a title. Overall, I thought the season proved to be an exciting one for our series - we had three guys going into the final lap of the season to decide the champion, which is always great for the fans.
And while I may have had a few disappointing results there in the final events, one thing that made my season unforgettable is the fact that I'm going to be a father soon. During the summer, we found out that my beautiful girlfriend, Adriana, is pregnant and we're expecting a baby girl in January. I am so excited to be a dad; it's truly been the most exciting news. Knowing that I'm going to have a little daughter makes all of the past year's difficulties a little easier to accept.
I learned a lot in 2009 both personally and professionally and I'm really looking forward to the off-season to relax and re-charge. We'll take everything we learned this past season and use it as we prepare for 2010. I know that with hard work, Team Penske can achieve the results we're looking for next year.